Oley Spencer, a resident of South Grafton, reminiscing of bygone days recalled the day of June 11,1892, when a group of the machinist craft convened on the second floor of the Marble shop of S. J. Willhide, at 154 Latrobe Street to consider the organization of a union of the machinists of Grafton. On that day it was decided by those present to band themselves in the society known as the Machinists Union No. 618 of Grafton and apply for a charter from the national organization. John Caveney was chosen president, Thomas E. Joyce, financial and Frank Keane corresponding secretary to conduct the business session of the new society established 47 years ago in the building now owned and operated by W.E. Robinson as a sheet metal and roofing concern.
Those who affixed their names as charter members of the society were:
Andrew J. Barbee, Noah Brooks, James G. Burdett, Robert Hurnup, Millard Carr, John Carr, Jr., Thomas H. Carther, Platte Cathel, John Caveney, William Childers, William B. Coper, William H. Davis, George Drainsfield;
Charles Gigley, John Brannan, Harry Jackson, Thomas E. Joyce, William B. Keane, Frank Keane, George Keane, John Keefe, James J. Kernan, Fredrick A. King, Horace Mallonee, Edward McCafferty, Thomas McGraw;
Edward Moran, Benjamin Nuzum, John Ridenour, W.I. Rowland, James Ryan, William Shanan, Oley C. Spencer, and Charles Tibbetts.
Only three of the charter members of the union are residents of Grafton today who are Thomas H. Cather, W.I. Rowland and Oley Spencer.
Thomas H. Cather is the most prominent figure in this group, a descendent of one of the oldest and most prominent pioneer settlers of Taylor County who figured largely in the political, educational and religious history before and at the time of the formation of the county. His forebears gained distinction in the Revolutionary War of 1812 and the great Civil War and had part in bringing into being the state of West Virginia during the period when secession threatened disruption of the nation. Left fatherless at an early age in the state of Kansas where his father went to repair his shattered health after the Civil War and where he passed away, the widow with her family returned to Grafton and young Tom Cather entered historic old Central School to begin his education, completing his elementary training, he apprenticed his services as a machinist in the old stone shops of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad in Grafton and in time mastered this craft, He was engaged as instructor of mechanical engineering at West Virginia University for some time and resigned to enter into the mercantile business at Colorado. Disposing of his interest in this concern he returned to Grafton and entered the mayoralty race in 1920 and was elected and for nine years served as head of the town administration.
During his administration, he brought about so many permanent improvements in Grafton he stands apart from all other men who headed the town organization. When he and Commissioners Love and Morgan took charge of the town government the treasury was empty and to provide money to pay interest on the town bonds and current expenses, they pledged their own credit for a loan of $12,00 to meet those debts. His engineering skill enabled him to put the machinery of the water plant in fine condition and thoroughly recondition the electric light plant that had suffered for the want of technical knowledge to keep both plants in condition.
He strenuously opposed the proposition of the West Penn company to junk the electric light plant and purchase current from that company and had Senator Merle Watkins introduce and have a bill passed in the State Legislature preventing any commission from selling the light plant in the town of Grafton. He opposed any and all attempts of the Pittsburgh and West Virginia Gas company to consumers in the town. He discarded the old horse drawn fire equipment for the Seagrave pumper now in use by the fire department and had the new brick garage erected on the waste land in the rear of municipal building to house the new truck and equipment saving the town a rental fee of $200 per month. He and the commissioners negotiated the purchase of the Grafton Bank Building and gave the town its first permanent administrative home and saved moving the town offices in different quarters after each erection and saving taxpayers considerable money in rentals by owning this permanent home.
The paving of Yates and Dewey Avenues, Haslup, Market, St. John, Bridge and portion of Christina streets, Catholic and When alley the massive retaining wall on Gertrude Street at Haslup and Luzadder streets, the new concrete tank and filtration plant and in conjunction with L.L Loar in the improvements to Bluemont cemetery. The erection of the concrete steps on McGray alley to which the commission contributed the sum of $1,000 to the Board of Education to enable the school pupils attending High School as well as the citizens living in proximity to this alley reaching the school and homes by this short way and out of the mud. These all stands as monuments to the administration of Tom Cather, but like all men who strive for the betterment of his community he made enemies and earned their ill will and after nine years of permanent improvements that meant much to the health and well-being of the town of Grafton he was dethroned and retired to his farm along the old Webster Pike where he cultivates his lands and probably feels relief from the vexing problems that arise and troubles the administrative head of all communities.
W.I Rowland, retired from the service of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, is a resident of Maple Avenue West Grafton, and spends his winters in Florida. He was considered the most careful locomotive driver on the Parkersburg branch and to him was entrusted the most noted personages in the nation and others from aboard. Prominent among them he was drawn in and his locomotive over the Parkersburg branch were Presidents Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, Roosevelt.